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Why your financial institution needs an end-to-end payments testing strategy

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It’s no secret that consumer expectations have shifted to “anytime/anywhere/anyway.” These expectations are impacting all areas of financial services including payments where consumers want to make payments seamlessly in whatever fashion they please. In turn, while the number of payment routing scenarios is already extensive, they continue to expand at an increasing pace. Standing at the point of sale? Will that be debit, credit, prepaid, PayPal, cash or in some countries (heaven forbid) check? With a phone or watch?  Pay a bill over the web or P2P?  And don’t forget stops by the ATM or teller window.

Banks have become known for continuously introducing new payment channels but then being unable to retire legacy ones.  This one-way street means every new digital wallet and web-based payment scheme merely adds to the complexity. And so far we’ve only spoken to the customer-facing aspects of the transaction –from there it gets even more complex. Behind the push of the button beyond which the layperson assumes the rest proceeds automatically and painlessly, IT/Dev teams kick into action for the heavy lifting of payments software stack maintenance, client and server side integration, authentication and processing and finally back-end settlement and exception handling.   

If those challenges weren’t enough, underlying systems are constantly changing. Not only are there ongoing updates to both payments hardware and software, but also industry mandates like PCI and, in the US, EMV implementation requirements. Don’t expect this pace of change to slow anytime soon.

Getting to Superior Payments Testing

While trying to keep pace with change, too many financial institutions’ payments testing environments get caught in an inefficient, piecemeal approach, lacking a clear underlying strategy other than trying to keep up. Most FIs rely heavily on manual testing resources, devices and processes. When automation is used, it tends to be a point solution deployed on the desktop. Furthermore, most banks lack an environment capable of testing the full enterprise payments network, as well as a structure to store and act on test results. Many component systems are tested in isolation with different sets of test data and different scripts.  These components are often only combined just before production (if at all) with only brief confidence testing before release. With available testing time getting shorter and shorter, there are simply insufficient resources to perform adequate payments testing using a manual approach.

While this resource shortage explains the lack of end-to-end payments testing, constantly changing payments mandates and ongoing innovation demand a new approach.  A best-in-class end-to-end payments testing environment should include the following design elements:

  • Ability to support complete payments regression and QA testing
  • Enable on-demand automated payments testing
  • Provide centralized management of all test cases and test results
  • Support continuous integration payments testing to promote rapid and automated test-break-fix-test scenarios
  • Extensibility to include performance and stress testing, third party applications (e.g., fraud detection and payment switch functionality) and pre-testing of payments certifications
  • Virtual testing capabilities, using virtual cards and terminals to replace the demand for physical payments testing labs and equipment
  • 24x7 Cloud-based “enterprise” payments testing environment that supports testing of acquiring end point – system under test – and authorization end point, by testing personnel across the country or globe

It’s All About the Money

FIs will need to invest in their underlying payments testing technology to create an end-to-end testing environment since existing testing tools are not adequate in addressing current conditions. Paragon’s Web FASTest provides a unique and comprehensive solution that addresses the above needs. Its single collaborative payments testing environment is especially valuable for the increasingly common geographically dispersed work team. At the same time, Web FASTest also makes it easier to give access to scripts to the colleague sitting at the next workstation. Its functional testing at the desktop, augmented for cloud automation, makes it easier to test the flow of money across all systems and report identified issues.

With banks dealing with exponential points of payments entry, an automated approach powered by Web FASTest can test tens of thousands of paths on an automated basis overnight, compared to an upper limit of 50 manual test per tester in an eight hour shift. This also enables end-to-end continuous integration payments testing, given the need to test the full software stack once it’s integrated, not just the individual components in isolation. Best of all, Web FASTest provides an open API, making it easier for banks to integrate Web FASTest with its existing tools.

Financial institutions rarely measure the cost of their payments testing regimes. By wringing out inefficiencies inherent in current approaches, Web FASTest can deliver the dual benefits of more comprehensive payments testing (greater volume, scripts) and reduced testing costs.

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